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Laelaps and the Teumessian Fox

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Laelaps and the Teumessian Fox
By coppercowries

 

Oswald had never quite gotten comfortable with having Ed's attention so intently focused on his leg.

"You don't have to," he offered, just like he always did as Ed's long fingers gathered the hem of his pant leg up his shin bone and over his scarred and misshapen knee. Ed had taken to massaging Oswald's leg several times a week; in fact, he always seemed stubbornly keen to do so, and at this point Oswald's quibbling was purely perfunctory. As soon as Ed's strong fingers dug into the tendons around his ankle, Oswald was already hissing in relief. His head fell back onto the chair, eyes closing, teeth clenching around another gasp of pleasure as Ed hummed in self-approval.

"You know you'll be on your feet all night, Oswald," came the usual reminder, and there was a softness in the way Ed purred Oswald's name that sent shivers up Oswald's spine every time.

Combined with Ed's gently aggressive touch - lithe fingers kneading their way up Oswald's knotted calf muscles - all Oswald could do was struggle not to embarrass himself. He tried to focus on the drone of Ed's voice instead of the pleasant warmth spreading along his leg in place of the usual pain.

"I talked to Zsasz," Ed continued, "told him to keep his ladies on a short leash tonight. I also made a few alterations to your golden penguin cane, replaced the mechanism in the handle to stop it grinding when you release the knife. And I adjusted the ratio of the smoke release pellets at the tip, should produce a greater yield of smoke in a faster time."

Oswald grunted in acknowledgment, but in truth he could hardly focus on anything Ed was saying. Those long fingers were wandering beneath his rolled up pant leg and working around his knee. Oswald cracked an eye open to peek down at him, and Ed's face was tight with concentration and...something Oswald couldn't easily identify. Ed's tongue swiped out several times to wet his pursed lips, looking distracted as he held Oswald's knee in both hands and considered his work. Oswald grunted in surprise when Ed grabbed him by the ankle and pressed the sole of Oswald's foot into the middle of his chest, lifting Oswald's thigh slightly off the couch. Before Oswald could remark on this new addition to Ed's massage routine, Ed's fingers were digging into the meat of his thigh.

Oswald groaned before he could stop himself, feeling heat rush into his face and...other areas. He clapped a hand over his own mouth as another moan bubbled up, and Ed chuckled, big hands working with authority, raising tingles all along their path. He grinned up at Oswald, brown eyes glinting at him over the rim of his glasses as Oswald bit down on the flesh of his hand to quiet himself.

Oswald could feel the blush spreading from his face to his neck as those talented fingertips continued to travel, digging and rolling, one hand alighting at his hip and the other his inner thigh, just an inch or so away from the increasingly noticeable bulge in Oswald's trousers. His body was rushing ahead of his mind now, every breath shorter and harsher than the previous, his heart hammering with same damn befuddled, eager excitement it did every time Ed touched him like this, looked at him like that.

He drew down a shaky breath, scrambling for some kind of segue onto a more neutral footing.

"Eddie, um--"

Ed cut him off with a blinding smile, released him abruptly and pulled away enough that Oswald's foot settled from Ed's chest back to the ground.

"Better?"

Oswald sucked in another steadying breath, nodding weakly.

"Y-yes, thank you, Ed." He relaxed a little at Ed's pleased grin and managed a soft, genuine smile of his own. "You take such good care of me, Eddie."

Edward beamed at the words, hands folding atop Oswald's knees. He leaned up and forward until his face was alarmingly close to Oswald's.

"I can think of a way to thank me," he purred, grinning and short-circuiting Oswald's brain all over again. God fucking damn it, he couldn't even meet Ed's eyes anymore, he was focused like a laser on those pink grinning lips.

"And h-how is that?"

"Remember when I mentioned that I might need to borrow Zsasz and Walter when the Sweet Olivia docks at Gotham next week..."

Oswald swallowed down the swell of almost crushing disappointment that choked up his throat. Of course, he thought bitterly, Ed had simply been wrapping him around his finger again to get what he wanted. As if Oswald would have refused him anything anyway. They had become partners in nearly all aspects of their personal and professional lives...excluding, of course, romance.

Except...Oswald wasn't even sure if that was still true. Ed had yet to kiss him or touch him in any sort of overtly sexual way, but the way he looked at Oswald, spoke to him, pressed against his body in the evening as they shared a bowl of popcorn and watched terrible horror host TV after a rough day in the city...

Ed would brush off the crumbs from Oswald's lap, a devious glint in his eyes as Oswald blushed and stammered, and Ed would lean in, grinning like a fox, filling Oswald's entire line of sight and--

steal away the TV remote, or crack a joke, or tickle Oswald in the ribs. And Oswald would live and die at the same time.

Wasn't all of this indicative of romance? Just because Ed didn't actually kiss him or say the words, did that mean that this wasn't romance? Was Oswald simply deluding himself again, projecting his own feelings - once again - onto his friend?

His disappointment must have shown on his face because Ed leaned back a little, eyes widening behind the thin lenses of his glasses.

"I didn't think you would mind..." His fingers worked at the expensive trouser material beneath them. Oswald straightened and covered Ed's hands with one of his own to stop them fidgeting.

"No, no, of course I don't mind," he assured. "I just thought--" He shook his head and pushed aside the ache in his chest. "Never mind."

Ed smiled again and patted Oswald on the knee.

"So," he said brightly, "decided yet on your ensemble for the night?"

*

Oswald stopped to double-check his appearance one last time in the hotel lobby mirror. Dark purple striped suit, cream colored vest, purple patterned shirt and bright fuchsia tie. Beige top hat and a sparkling ribbon. His makeup was a bit bolder than usual, with heavy black liner and a glittering purple shadow, and the sweep of warm blush across his cheeks. His monocle was new, embedded with one chocolate diamond at the chain hoop. Olga had even freshened up the purple highlights at the front of his hair, even though the effort was hidden beneath his hat. Ed also seemed to appreciate the extra effort put into his looks, he too was regarding Oswald's reflection in the mirror and smiling softly.

Ed had accompanied Oswald as his plus-one. The taller man had just taken it for granted that they'd be going as a pair, and Oswald thought warmly about how different this time was than in the past, before banishing the comparison altogether. They had agreed to close that chapter of their lives completely and begin anew.

Ed's long fingers smoothed across the top of Oswald's shoulders in habitual fussing, humming lowly in approval.

"You look delightful," he whispered, his breath hot on the back of Oswald's ear, eliciting a tingle. "Like a king attending court. Ready to go up?"

Oswald fought back a swell of emotion and the sting of tears at Ed's unexpected compliment - don't cry, don't cry. He nodded and wrapped his hand around the crook of Ed's arm, accepting his support as they ascended the stairs to the second floor of the hotel where the dinner and charity auction were being hosted. The gathering was full of the nouveau riche of Gotham - a few returning aristocrats but mostly new investors and political hopefuls, as well as a smattering of the criminally influential who had migrated into the still-vulnerable city from places like Bludhaven and Chicago.

Oswald had hidden a portion of his once-sizable assets under a revocable trust fund for Martin, years ago, and during the reunification of the city he had used those funds - as well as a few sizable loans arranged under the stolen identity of Sofia Falcone, who was still a braindead vegetable at one of the mainland hospitals - to buy up the real estate he wanted under a dummy corporation. As a now-prominent land owner in Gotham, proprietor of its most popular nightclub, largest benefactor to the city's massive orphan population, and overall political influencer, Oswald was included in all of the biggest events in Gotham.

His association with Ed was...

Well, it simply was. People tolerated Oswald because he was an implacable presence in Gotham's recuperating business world - and, covertly, its criminal world. And because he could, in fact, be quite charming and irresistible when he wanted. Ed was still an outlier. Some of his outlandish quirks had only increased as his two personalities seemed to align more cohesively together, just as they always did in Oswald's company, with closer goals, closer urges, closer motivations. His disdain for the populace, his hatred of the GCPD, his manic episodes of plotting and wild exhibitions - Oswald had flexed a considerable amount of money and influence over the past year just to keep Ed out of any real trouble.

Ed hadn't done anything too outrageous yet, but Oswald knew he was feverishly working on bigger, more disruptive and deadly designs. Ed was just waiting for the city to recover enough to sustain that kind of mayhem, and Ed had been content to help Oswald's return to power in the meantime.

Eventually, Ed would crack. Eventually, Oswald was going to run out of rope and Ed would be a proper fugitive.

Still, Oswald didn't care. He loved Ed too much to ever sideline him, reign him in, or ever deny a chance for them to be seen together at a formal event. As they entered the main salon, several of the guests paused in their socializing to peek at the event's most notorious attendees. Oswald smirked at the attention and he could feel Ed straightening at his side in shared satisfaction. They were alike in their love of show-stopping, of grabbing the collective attention of a room.

Ed shadowed Oswald for a few minutes, participating only sporadically in his partner's tedious schmoozing. Oswald was aware of how mind-numbing Ed must have found the whole event; Oswald could at least find humor, occasionally gratification in the art of networking, knowing when to simper in false modesty, when to barter with coy deceit, and when to flex his exquisitely gloved iron fist. But Ed's patience for the subtleties of high society was exhausted a mere twenty minutes into the night, and he wandered to the bar to people-watch at a comfortable distance.

As Oswald entertained a circle of businessman clustering around him, he kept one eye on his partner, just to make sure that his emerald friend was at least mostly behaving. As he prevaricated about how much influence he did or did not have at the docks, he noticed a young woman cautiously approaching an oblivious Ed, curiosity on her face. She was cute and petite, almost nerdy, with tortoise shell glasses and a severely cut brown bob, and a thickly curved body filling out a houndstooth jacket and skirt. Oswald lost his train of thought momentarily as he watched her try a handful of times to engage Ed in conversation.

Ed was at least intrigued enough - or bored enough - to eventually humor her. Oswald knew that Ed needed more than an attractive face to be truly engaged, but the pretty looks of that bookish and eager girl certainly wasn't going to turn Ed off. Ed was telling her one of his goddamn riddles right now, Oswald could just tell from the man's body language.

Seeing them chatter together hurt Oswald, he could not deny it.

"Mr. Cobblepot?"

"Yes, what can I--" Oswald turned instinctively, a vacant smile already on his lips, but his platitudinous reply trailed off when he realized he was being addressed by the son of one of the oldest and most respected patriarchs in Gotham.

"Ronald Harris. I'm an old friend of Barbara Kean."

"Oh?" replied Oswald, noncommittal. Despite her increasing presence in Gotham's real estate market, Barbara had been unable to attend the charity event that night because of Barbara Jr. Inspecting the lean, slightly scruffy man before him, Oswald was aware that any "friend" of Barbara was likely to cause him trouble. "And are you an old friend Barbara Kean the socialite, or Barbara Kean the gangster?"

The gentleman snorted a laugh and didn't look at all offended.

"Both, I suppose, although I admit I never saw much of her after the whole murdering her parents thing."

"That does dampen one's social credentials, I imagine."

Ronald Harris grinned again, the age lines that formed around his mouth and eyes not unattractive, merely worldly looking. He appeared to be in his mid-fifties and still gruffly handsome. His brown eyes were shining with something Oswald couldn't quite place as he shifted closer.

"I always wanted to see more of her though," Ronald said softly, as though confessing a secret. His hand brushed across the head of Oswald's golden cane and up his wrist. Oswald was so startled by the intimate gesture that his only thought was to make sure his cuff-link was still there. It WAS, and then that same hand was fussing with what was surely an imaginary piece of lint on Oswald's suit lapel. "I have an unfortunate fascination with the dangerous, you see. I find nothing in this world so irresistible as a pretty little thing that can also kill me. That's why I wear larkspur on my lapel."

Oswald's attention dipped to the sprig of purple flowers threaded through the buttonhole of the man's jacket lapel.

"I also just happen to like the color purple." His eyes raked meaningfully down and back up Oswald's body.

Oh. Oswald blinked. Oh. Was this...was this man flirting with him?

Oswald was used to brushing off insincere flattery - he blathered out enough of it himself on a daily basis to recognize it turned back on him immediately. But what could a man like Ronald Harris want from Oswald Cobblepot? His family owned a chain of nursing homes and fancy rehabilitation facilities on the mainland - not exactly Oswald's area of expertise or interest.

"My father sent me to school in California when I was a teenager," continued Harris. "Because as much as he tried, he could never quite stop me sneaking around with the young nephew of Carmine Falcone. He was such a bad boy, just like his uncle. We would break into the neighborhood liquor store, then sneak away with a fistful of liquor to drink and -- well, a gentleman doesn't talk about what he does with another man once they're drunk, does he?"

As if on cue, Ronald plucked a fresh martini off the tray of a passing server and held it out to Oswald, who was already flushing at the implication.

"Or does he?" wondered Ronald, a wicked look in his brown eyes. He swirled the martini in front of Oswald's face in invitation. When Oswald finally gathered enough of his wits to accept the drink, Ronald stole the olive from the glass by its toothpick and held Oswald's deer-in-the-headlight gaze the whole time he pinched the olive between his teeth and dragged it off the toothpick and into his mouth.

Oswald opened and closed his mouth, floundering somewhere between disbelief, panic, and a new kind of exhilaration he was unfamiliar with. He raised the martini to his lips, to spare himself from blurting out something utterly self-efacing and pathetic, but -- a flash of green and he startled as Ed snatched the drink from his hand, stalked over to the nearest table and slammed down the glass. The drink splashed out on his gloved hand but he didn't seem to care. He was back at Oswald's side and frowning.

"Martinis upset your stomach," he growled, and even though that was absolutely untrue, Oswald didn't currently have enough wits about him to protest.

"Oh, um...Ed this is--"

"Pleasure to meet you," snapped Ed gruffly, without even looking at the other man. He took Oswald by the wrist, and Oswald hurriedly stammered out an apology to Ronald Harris as he was being dragged away like disobedient child. Once he regained control of himself, he snatched his wrist out of Ed's hold and scowled at him.

"Edward Nygma, what in the hell do you think you're--"

"How stupid can you be," hissed Ed, "accepting drinks from a stranger?!"

"What?!" exclaimed Oswald. "I've already had two glasses of wine and a cosmopolitan from the serving trays! It's ok!"

Ed barked out a harsh laugh. "His hands were all over you!" he sneered, swatting at Oswald's lapel in a mockery of the intimate gesture Harris had done a few minutes before. "He was distracting you! He could have slipped anything into that glass at any time he liked, because you were too busy swooning all over him like some addle-brained teenage girl to notice!"

Oswald was just about to verbally tear off a strip of Ed's flesh in reply, but the way Ed was seething gave Oswald a moment's pause instead.

Was Ed...jealous?

Just the idea was enough to tilt Oswald's entire world slightly askew. He was no stranger to a jealous Edward Nygma; Ed could be quite petty over Oswald's attention. Butch, Gordon, Penn. Oswald had always made excuses for Ed's proprietary sulking and outbursts in the past - Ed was simply a possessive man, a man in need of constant validation, even in friendship. But this time felt...amplified, somehow, as tho Oswald was also at fault as Ed fumed and waited for an explanation.

His hands were all over you. Swooning like a teenage girl.

Ed's anger had nothing at all to do with a possibly poisoned drink.

Oswald couldn't stop the way his heartbeat quickened as those brown eyes regarded him, fiercely offended and accusatory about a transgression Oswald hadn't known he was committing. A small, breathless smile touched Oswald's lips before he could stop himself, and he laid his left hand gently on Ed's forearm.

"Of course. I apologize."

Ed's eyes widened, clearly unprepared for the apology. His expression shifted from confrontational to uncertain.

"Oh, w-well, I'm sorry too if I over-reacted," he stammered, pink seeping into his cheeks. "I've just never seen you get distracted by a handsome face, that's all."

Oswald arched an eyebrow. "He wasn't that handsome, Ed, and I wasn't that distracted."

Ed released a watery breath, smiling in what looked like a curious mixture of relief and embarrassment. "Sorry," he repeated. "I know you can handle yourself."

"I can," Oswald agreed with a smile, "but it's nice to know there's someone here watching out for me."

Ed looked away, bashful now, the way Oswald's compliments always affected him.

"They'll be calling us into the dining room soon. Shall we head in a few minutes early?"

Ed offered his arm, and Oswald accepted. On their way out of the salon, Oswald caught sight of the petite young woman still leaning at the bar and frowning at them as Ed steered Oswald past her, completely oblivious now to her presence. Oswald straightened his spine in petty glee and he hugged himself a little tighter against Ed's elbow.

"My leg," he lied, easily, at Ed's curious look.

A hostess showed them to their table on the far side of the dining room. Ed dragged their chairs closer together and as they sat down his hand found the meat of Oswald's thigh, digging in and rubbing like he had that afternoon. Oswald almost burst a blood vessel at the public display of intimacy, but Ed pulled his hand away as the other attendees began filing in.

Oswald sighed in dread as he recognized the four other people seated at their table, and found all of them intolerable. Two of them were old money Gothamites who had fled the city just before the bridges blew, and who viewed Oswald as upstart bacterial scum, and the other two were an absolute harpy of a woman named Diana Dusselberg and her obnoxious young son.

Oswald had dealt with the widow Dusselberg several times during fundraisers for the city's orphanage. She was a woman built like a tank, with cartoonish makeup and Tammy Wynette hair, but her insatiable libido and outrageous mannerisms had made her popular entertainment at parties nonetheless. She settled her square body precisely just-touching Oswald's, scooting her chair and table setting nearer to his.

"Oswald Cobblepot, my darling dear!"

Her hand was already clutching Oswald's knee beneath the table, in some horrible paradoy of Ed's attention a moment before, earning a grimace from Oswald in response. He had experienced her manhandling before; she seemed particularly drawn to men smaller and physically weaker than herself, perhaps because she felt more comfortable trying to dominate them. Oswald was just happy that she was seated next to him instead of Ed, because she was already craning her neck around to get a better look at him, and Ed would've probably speared her through the hand with the salad fork. He already looked as uncomfortable as Oswald felt.

"And who is your handsome friend?" she demanded, her fuschia painted lips curling upwards in a greedy leer, and Oswald began to wonder if he was the only attendee tonight not utterly preoccupied with boning every other attendee.

"My business associate and friend, Edward Nygma."

Her small eyes narrowed. "Oh, yes, I recognize you now from the newspapers. You're the one they caught straddling old man Jenkins' niece in the office, weren't you?"

Ed blushed violently, and Oswald would've laughed under better circumstances. Three months ago, Ed had knocked out the staff of Jerry Jenkins' diamond exchange with a floral-based gas bomb he'd borrowed from Ivy, not knowing that Jenkins' eight year old niece would be there that night as well. He'd found her seized up beside her uncle's desk, having an allergic reaction to the gas, and because not even the Riddler would murder a child in cold blood he had proceeded to give the girl his oxygen mask and what medical attention he could until he heard the familiar wail of sirens. By the time the police had arrived Ed was already gone, but his distinctively green ensemble on the security camera footage had still earned him a visit from the GCPD.

Oswald had lawyered Ed's way out of that one, but the gossip had been rampant and deeply satisfying to Ed until the not-so-subtle implication had been raised that he was somehow a pedophile.

Dinner was served within half an hour, and Oswald frowned at the three hundred dollar plate of food. The squab tasted like mush and the potatoes were full of onions that Ed didn't even bother to pick through. Diana Dusselberg continued her oral assault upon Oswald's ears, all but climbing into his lap like a lascivious mountain goat.

"It was really just so kind of you to take in a boy like Martin. He's such a bright boy, but you know how most people shy away from a child with such a restrictive disability. But I suppose you and he have that in common, and a common ground is so important in child rearing, isn't it?"

Oswald could've sliced open her throat like a juicy holiday ham - and her hand was in his lap again, squeezing his upper thigh. He genuinely had no idea if she was trying to humiliate him or seduce him or possibly both, but he had just about reached his limit when Ed stood up roughly from the table.

"Oswald, you just have time for a cigarette before the auctions starts."

"Oh! Yes! I do very much need a cigarette, thank you, Ed!"

Oswald hurried up from the table, tearing himself away from Dusselberg's cartoon-villain clutches. But he and Ed didn't go out to smoke - Oswald only ever smoked socially, in a group, and hadn't even brought his cigarette holder along. Instead they headed back to the bar of the salon down the hall.

"Oh, how I despise that woman," groused Oswald, settling onto one of the high-backed stools at the bar. "My god."

Ed was frowning again. He blocked Oswald from accepting another drink from the bartender.

"Why didn't you just stop her?" he asked - no, demanded. "You've told off people for far less. You've STABBED people for less."

"Well I can hardly start stabbing the other attendees, can I?" sniped Oswald, irritated by Ed's insinuation that he would've tolerated that horrible woman's clutching under any other circumstances. Ed gave no further reply, so Oswald stalked off, leaing Ed alone at the bar.

He limped his way to the final event of the evening, the charity auction for the Gotham City School System, taking place on the opposite side of the hotel floor. The room was half-full of guests already, most of them having a look at the collectibles and artworks that were about to go up for auction. Bits of conversation about the value of the items and the children they benefited drifted over Oswald's head, but Oswald wasn't certain if he could handle even one more minute of banal conversation with these people who he secretly hated. He thought about just leaving, or getting drunk and making a spectacle of himself on the stage, but he knew that he couldn't do either of those things and not lose some of the social standing he'd been fighting for since reunification.

He was half-heartedly perusing the items up for bid when his eyes caught sight of a large, opulent brooch inside one of the protective glass displays. The brooch was shaped like a spider, with clusters of diamonds and amethysts and a beautiful platinum flowerbed beneath the spider's sparkling legs. Spiders weren't typically within Oswald's fashion wheelhouse, but he imagined how striking the enormous and brilliant brooch would look against his dark purple suits and decided that he wanted it.

"I thought this particular bobble might catch your eye."

Oswald jumped slightly and turned to see a man standing alarmingly near him that he recognized immediately as one of Bludhaven's most prominent businessmen. Oswald just happened to know that the man's business had less to do with the clothing mills he owned than the front those factories provided him for smuggling South American drugs.

And he was grinning at Oswald like a particularly smitten shark.

Tall and athletic looking, almost thick, with a neatly styled blond plume of hair and almost black eyes. There was a toughness to his appearance, a confidence and perspicacity that piqued Oswald's interest.

"Mr. Cobblepot," greeted the man, voice rough but pleasant. "I've had my eye on you all evening. You're a popular man."

"Ahh, I'm terribly sorry. Have we met before, Mr...?" Oswald knew the man's name, but didn't want to reveal as much. He'd rather keep the advantage of feigning ignorance, at least for now.

"Brutus," answered the man. "Nathaniel Brutus. Of Bludhaven."

Oswald nodded. "I'm familiar with the name. You've come to Gotham on business, yes? Don't you have a bid in on supplying the uniforms for Arkham and Blackgate?"

Brutus smiled. "You certainly know what's happening in your city. May I call you Oswald?"

Oswald nodded. "Of course. Nathaniel?"

"Everyone calls me Brutus."

"Brutus, then." Oswald regarded the attractive man lingering expectantly in front of him. Fuck it. Either the universe was playing the cruelest joke on him possible, or it was determined to find him a fuck-buddy. If good-looking men were determined to throw themselves at him tonight, then goddamnit he might as well at least enjoy it. And if all of this nonsense made the man he really loved possessive and jealous, then all for the better.

He rested both hands atop his golden cane and tilted his head at Brutus with what he hoped was a coy expression.

"So, Brutus, why did you want to speak to me, specifically. There are all sorts of influential people here, and I'm not exactly involved in prison fashion - other than that I avoid wearing it as aggressively as possible."

Brutus laughed. "I've no doubt, Oswald - it's your delightful sense of fashion that's held my eye all night."

"Oh?" said Oswald, arching an eyebrow and smiling. "I'm listening."

Another appreciative humm of laughter. "I admire a man who makes a statement, Oswald. Your name has gotten around over the last few years, outside of Gotham. When I decided to visit this city, introducing myself to you was a primary goal."

"And what can I do for you now that you're here, Brutus?"

The man's smile widened and he took Oswald firmly by the elbow, leading him away from the cluster of people at the auction items. "More of what we could do for each other. I'm a man who finds very particular qualities attractive, Oswald."

Oswald examined his nails for a moment, as though uninterested, but then looked up at Brutus with coquettish eyes.

"I'm still listening," he said, earning a deep and rumbling chuckle from Brutus that was almost a growl. His black eyes were hyper-focused on Oswald now, never drifting from his face as their discussion deepened around the total incompetence of the Bludhaven PD.

The conversation dipped in and out of flirtation, and even tho Oswald should have felt totally out of his depth, instead he felt emboldened by the raw appreciation and interest he had received all night. Brutus was amusing, if not exactly clever, and the way he seemed to want nothing what-so-ever from Oswald except his company was heady. They each drank a bourbon highball as they talked, and Oswald was feeling the cumulative buzz of all the alcohol he had consumed over the course of the evening heightening the adrenaline rush he felt at being so openly desired.

Brutus reached up lazily and snagged Oswald's chin lightly with one hand, a wide grin on his thin lips. He set aside the empty glass in his other hand and swiped his thumb carefully at the line of Oswald's lower lip.

"Wouldn't want anyone to see your lovely mouth with your lipstick smudged," he whispered softly, looking oh-so-hungry, and suddenly the game that Oswald had been playing with this total stranger took on a totally new sense of urgency.

"Oswald. The auction is starting soon."

Oswald barely registered Ed's presence at his back. Not until Brutus withdraw his hand from Oswald's face did Oswald finally blink his way back to reality and take stock of the man vibrating with jealousy at his back.

"Oh, Ed," managed Oswald around his hoarsely dry mouth, "this is Nathaniel Brutus. My associate, Mr. Nygma."

"Mr. Nygma."

"The auction is starting soon," repeated Ed roughly, ignoring Nathaniel Brutus just as he had ignored Ronald Harris. He took hold of Oswald's elbow and steered him away towards their seats for the auction. Once seated, Ed sat facing the auctioneer's podium, arms crossed and expression murderous, saying nothing. As the rest of the crowd assumed their seats, Oswald took the chance to lean closer to him and gauge the situation, concerned that he had pushed Ed too far.

"Everything all right, Ed?"

Oswald watched the man's throat bob as he swallowed several times. His expression pinched even tighter, but he kept his eyes stubbornly forward. Oswald rested a hand on Ed's lean thigh, lightly at first, but then when Ed did not object he drifted his touch into a more intimate caress, trailing so-softly to the junction of hip and thigh, and back down. He could see the struggle cracking through Ed's stern features, felt a shiver of the skin beneath his palm, before Ed broke like a taught rubberband and whipped his head around to stare Oswald in the eyes.

"Anything I need to know?"

Oswald tilted his head in question. "What do you mean?"

"About that man." He spat out the word "man" like a curse word.

"Oh, I don't know yet," dissembled Oswald. He didn't want to hurt Ed, but maybe if Ed thought he had real, true competition for once, after all these years of taking Oswald's affections for granted, maybe that might push him into -- into something. Something more, that Ed had just been teasing Oswald with for a year now.

"Well, what's he been saying this whole time?" demanded Ed, inadvertently revealing that he had probably been watching the two of them interact for much longer than Oswald realized.

Oswald traced a fingertip down to Ed's knee, pretending to be thoughtful instead of a man deliberately trying to elicit another shiver from his friend. "Um...I think he's just been, um, flirting with me?"

Ed's whole body seized up, as though this was some blindsiding revelation, as though he wasn't already furious for exactly that reason. "WHAT?"

Oswald shrugged. "I mean, I guess it's flirting. It's not something I've had much experience with."

Ed's expression flattened. Turned cold. "Is that so?" he asked, and again there was an accusation there, like Oswald was missing some important detail.

"He could just be flattering me, of course," Oswald prevaricated, "to work up to a larger proposition."

"Oh, I'm sure they'll be a proposition," hissed Ed, turning to face the podium again. "Don't talk to him again without me."

"What? Why?"

"He wants something from you."

"Ed, everyone here wants something from me."

"Stay away from him," warned Ed harshly, "or we're leaving."

Oswald jerked his hand away from Ed's thigh and balked. No matter how much he loved Ed, nobody talked to Oswald that way. Especially not a man who had gleefully and cruelly informed Oswald on multiple occasions that he would never love him.

"What the hell, Ed?" he demanded, loud enough to elicit a few curious looks from the other attendees. "Who the hell do you think you're talking to?"

Ed shushed him, and Oswald was halfway to slamming the end of his cane down on the man's foot when the auctioneer took to the podium and welcomed everyone, and reminded everyone for the one millionth time that the auction was for charity, so spend spend spend! Oswald sank into his seat and sulked. Fifteen minutes ago he would have bid on a few of the items just to say he had donated, just to make himself look good, but he was too pissy about Ed now to care. Not until the spider brooch he had noticed earlier came up for bid.

The auctioneer started the bidding at five thousand dollars, and Oswald bid immediately. A few other bids cycled around the room until the going bid was seven thousand dollars. Oswald bid again, only to again be outbid. He glanced over to see who was still bidding against him, and there was Nathaniel Brutus leaning forward down the aisle and grinning at him. Oswald wasn't certain if this was some sort of power play, or some new kind of flirtation, but he heard Ed growl and Oswald closed his eyes. A sense of dread settled across the auction.

Ed had noticed who else was bidding, too.

"Nine thousand dollars," announced Ed, skipping the price ahead.

"Ten thousand," countered Brutus immediately, and he and Ed descended into a battle of the bids, sending Oswald into a panic as the price for the little brooch climbed into the stratosphere.

"Ed, enough!" hissed Oswald. "I don't want it that badly! Stop!"

Ed bid once more and Oswald sank his fingernails through the silky fabric of Ed's pant leg and into the meat of Ed's thigh in warning.

"I mean it, Edward."

Ed folded down into his chair in defeat. Brutus won the spider, and Oswald politely offered him a congratulatory smile, which earned him a wink in response. He could feel his face heating up again, and sat silently for the rest of the auction, keeping his eyes to himself. As soon as the last item sold, Ed was up and out the door of the room. Oswald sighed and hobbled to his feet. He said a few farewells to those around him, but as he followed after his sulking friend, hoping to smooth over the night's debacle, his path was blocked.

"For you," said Brutus, with a smile, holding out the pretty spider brooch.

"Wha--" Oswald's eyes went wide. "You bid against me and paid thousands of dollars more, just to give it to me?"

"Well, it is for charity, after all. Those poor sweet school children."

Oswald snorted a laugh at the man's droll reply, feeling a bit of the stress lift from his shoulders. "Well, if it's for the children..."

Brutus grinned and shifted closer. His hands folded around Oswald's left jacket lapel as he pinned the heavy brooch into place. Oswald could feel himself blushing as the man's strong hands settled to either side of the brooch, resting warmly on Oswald's chest.

"I'm not sure if it's extravagant enough for you," murmured Brutus. "Doesn't quite sparkle as much as your eyes."

Oswald could feel the blush spreading down his neck and chest. "You're too kind..."

"Would you like another drink?"

"I probably shouldn't..."

Despite the handsome man pressing for his affection, Oswald's eyes flicked to the exit, filled with a rising urge to find Edward and reconcile with him. Now that Ed was gone, Oswald was not so interested in any other man's attention. Brutus signaled for another glass of wine, but when Oswald hesitated to accept, the red wine splashed like blood across the front of Oswald's dress suit. An instant dark stain spread down the cream colored vest and soaked the velvety front of his purple trousers.

"Oh, how clumsy of me!" exclaimed Brutus, his handkerchief already in hand and pressing against the dampened fabric at Oswald's stomach. He was grinning in a way that told Oswald he wasn't sorry at all. He leaned in suddenly, his free arm hooking around Oswald's upper back to hold him close, his hand between them. He dipped his face to whisper hotly into Oswald's ear. "Let me get this cleaned up for you..."

His mouth covered Oswald's an instant later, just the firm press of lips, but Oswald froze, paralyzed by the unfamiliar contact, unable to think or react. He didn't know how long they stood there - maybe a few seconds - but then the hand pressed against his stomach fell lower and Oswald squeaked in shock, forcing Brutus away with a shove to the chest.

No one had tried to touch him like that in years, and that type of aggression from a man he barely knew was frankly frightening. In a moment of panic he glanced around for Ed, hoping his friend would see and intervene, but Ed was nowhere to be found. Brutus was reaching out for him again, confusion on his face, and Oswald's world erupted into senseless white noise.

"Excuse me," he stuttered and pushed past the befuddled looking man. He hurried out of the auction room and out of the hotel, feeling like a fool as he climbed into the back of his limousine and just wanted to go home.

*

Martin was asleep with Edward the dog on the couch by the fire, and Oswald draped a blanket over them, content to leave them there for the night. He climbed the stairs and headed down the hall towards his bedroom, but stopped when he saw the strip of light glowing under the door of Ed's room. He had wondered if Ed would even return to the mansion that night, or retreat to one of his hideouts in the city.

"Ed? Ed, are you awake?"

Oswald knocked softly on the closed door to Edward's bedroom. He was craving the comfort of Ed's voice and his presence. Oswald wasn't certain what he wanted to talk to Ed about, specifically - maybe just seek absolution for the events of the evening. He felt naive and small, abnormal even for not wanting that kind of intimacy with a stranger, even one as attractive as Nathaniel Brutus. He wanted Ed - however he could have him - even if that meant Ed just rolling his eyes and snarking that he had warned Oswald, like always.

Oswald could hear a slight shuffling from within Ed's room and he waited, knocking again when he received no answer. He lingered another long moment, but after still receiving no response he sighed and carried on to his own room.

He closed his bedroom door, eyes adjusting to a room dimly lit by a few dusty lamps and an open window. He enjoyed the evening breeze and the way it cleared the air in his sometimes suffocating room, the lacy curtains billowing moodily in the breeze.

He removed his hat and set it on the small table by the door, along with his monocle. Crossing over to his stand-up mirror, Oswald scowled as he eyed the dark stain on the front of his suit. Olga could probably get it out of the coat and pants- the dark purple fabric was nearly a matching shade for the suit itself - but the vest was cream colored. His eyes fell to the sparkling brooch on his jacket and he frowned and ripped it off, tossing it to the bedside dresser. The fat little spider stared up at him with its platinum eyes, and Oswald sighed and turned away, working on his cuff-links next.

He stripped off his tie, coat, vest, and pants, tossing them into a hamper to leave out for Olga. Looking down, he realized the wine had bled through onto the waistband of his boxer shorts as well, and with a grunt of irritation he slipped them off also, leaving him in only his half-buttoned dress shirt and pale lavender tank top.

He considered if he wanted to bathe before bed or simply collapse. He was frustrated from the back-and-forth nonsense with Ed, thinking Ed might've actually been jealous over him...romantically. Ed was never going to want him. Not like that. Oswald had given him every opportunity to push their relationship forward, had even stupidly expected Ed to be waiting when Oswald arrived home, ready to push away all the pretenders of the evening and claim Oswald as his own. Now Oswald was just going to have to accept - again - that he had to stop projecting his own feelings onto his friend.

He scowled. No wonder Ed wouldn't answer the fucking door when he knocked. He'd watched Oswald make an utter fool of himself all night.

Exhaling his frustration, Oswald decided on a bath. His leg was aching, he might was well soak his aching muscles as well as his ego, and he was most definitely not going to jerk off to thoughts of Ed and how handsome he'd looked tonight, because that absolutely was not going to help his situation. He turned on his good heel to limp to the bathroom before smacking face first into--

Ed. Ed's chest. Oswald nearly fell backwards from the impact, grunting at a stab of pain up his leg as his ankle twisted. Before he could even catch his balance he was shoved backwards to the edge of the bed and Ed was seizing him by the forearms. He twisted Oswald's arms behind his back and made quick work of securing Oswald's wrists together with his own discarded purple tie. Oswald squeaked in response, instinctively testing the tight restraint of the tie and struggling to get back on his feet, but Ed's hand was on his chest and shoved him back down.

Those brown eyes were hard and piercing, filled up with a sort of manic rage that Oswald hadn't seen directed at himself in years. Those pretty pink lips curled into a sneer, brow scowling deeply in half as Ed stretched out across Oswald like a hot shadow, hands pressing down onto Oswald's thin shoulders, into the mattress. Oswald sucked in a shaky breath, blindsided by the assault but instinctively ready to talk himself out of -- of whatever this was.

"Ed - Eddie, let's just talk about this--"

Oswald gasped as Ed grabbed a handful of his crisply styled hair and yanked his head to the side and back, baring his throat, and a hot mouth descended on Oswald's neck and bit down HARD. Oswald arched into the harsh bite, a scream choking out halfway up his throat.

That hurt, holy shit that hurt, but ohdeargod Ed's mouth was open and flat against his neck now, hot and wet, dragging harshly with tongue and teeth over and around the brutal bite mark. Oswald was whimpering before he could stop himself as that delicious, cruel mouth closed around the pulse in his neck again and bit down.

What was happening? Oh god, oh god, what was HAPPENING--

Another ruthless bite on the tendon of his neck and Oswald cried out helplessly, a sinful slurry of pain and pleasure shooting straight to his groin, and nothing short of the rapture was going to stop his love-sick body from responding. Oswald gasped helplessly as Ed continued working over his neck, suckling aggressively, drawing every drop of blood he could to the surface, marking him, growling as Oswald panted and whimpered and tried to twist away and escape the sweetest torment he'd ever endured. A sob escaped his throat, and Ed pulled up a second later, his lips swollen deep red and wet, eyes critical on Oswald as the smaller man blinked drunkenly up at him.

"What the hell did you think you were doing tonight?" Ed snarled, deep and dangerous, finally speaking. Oswald stared stupidly at him, unable to make sense of the words, overwrought with emotion and visceral need, an increasing ache to have - have anything, everything, whatever else Ed would give him tonight.

"W-what are you talking about?" he rasped out, mouth dry, eyes watering helplessly as Ed rumbled out a growl from deep in his throat and that vicious mouth descended on his shoulder and delivered another rough bite. Oswald moaned, long and loud, wriggling against the heavy weight atop him as those straight white teeth pierced through his delicate skin. He arched upward, his bare cock grinding desperately against the soft fabric at Ed's stomach. He could feel Ed's own hard erection against his thigh and he gasped at the shattering reality of it.

Ed was hard and on top of him, and whatever this was, Ed was hard and full of lust for him, for Oswald fucking Cobblepot.

"E-ed!" he stuttered as Ed's mouth opened wide like a python's jaws around his shoulder and sucked the soft skin until Oswald was sweating and swearing in earnest. Ed was dragging him down a path where pain and pleasure became indistinguishable, one from the other, killing him with over-stimulation. Ed's big hands were unforgiving in his hair to hold him in place as he sucked a long strip of skin from Oswald's shoulder to his neck into cherry redness. "Too much!" Oswald pleaded, throat swelling with emotion.

Ed pulled back with another scrape of teeth across skin, staring down at Oswald again with an almost cruel intensity.

"How could you humiliate me that way?" he said harshly, voice raw, an open flash of hurt in his eyes. "Throwing yourself at those men, laughing, letting them touch you..."

Oswald grappled with the accusation, with the admission of true, real jealousy. "Wha--? I-I didn't think you would care!" he exclaimed. "Eddie, I--"

"You didn't think I would care?!" bellowed Ed, raising up and back onto Oswald's hips to straddle him, that firm ass crushing down on Oswald's bobbing cock. "Why do you think I'm still here, you damned idiot?! Why do you think I found a doctor from Star City to transplant your eye?! Or why I took care of you?! Why I brought back the boy for you or why I broke Victor Zsasz out of Blackgate?! Why I helped you design the Lounge or why I fortified the mansion to keep you safe when I'm away in the city! Why I work on your umbrellas and canes, why I rub your goddamn leg for half an hour every night just because it causes you pain - and YOU DIDN'T THINK I WOULD CARE?!"

Ed was roaring in Oswald's face as he finished ranting and Oswald shrank away, clenching shut his eyes against a sudden onslaught of tears that threatened.

"I didn't mean it like that!" argued Oswald desperately. "I know that you care! I meant - I meant - you kept pulling away!" His natural defiance flared slightly and he somehow found the strength to meet Ed's gaze again. "Every time," he countered, "every time you pulled away! And I just thought - I mean - after all the times you said you'd never want me like that - all the times that you said you couldn't--"

"I SAY ALOT OF THINGS, OSWALD!"

Oswald flinched again at the shouting, but the reply itself was so ridiculous that his body shifted from a nebulous sense of flight into one of a sudden urge to fight. His hands were falling asleep, still tied beneath his lower back. He struggled to wriggle feeling back into them but Ed's long hands were already fisting into the front of Oswald's dress shirt, dragging him to sit up. Oswald flexed his wrists again against the restraint, to no avail, and he opened his mouth to start begging, if necessary, for Ed to just tell him what he wanted, or needed. But the crush of Ed's swollen lips against his own ignited across Oswald's entire body.

Oswald burned up instantly at the contact, eyes blown wide because Edward Nygma was kissing him, really kissing him, and it might have just been the graceless crush of one half-open mouth against another, but it was everything to Oswald in that moment. He groaned and his eyes slid closed against the rush of sensation, his body unfurling suddenly like a banner into Ed's embrace. Oh god...

Ed moved into the kiss as Oswald responded, keening as their mouths slipped open in unison, sliding wet and hungry, tongues touching for the first time and sending tingles of almost debilitating excitement through Oswald's insides. Ed's long fingers threaded through Oswald's hair and kept their mouths slotted so deeply and greedily together that Oswald kept forgetting to breathe, inhaling erratically through his nose every half-minute just to stave off the light-headed euphoria of suffocation. He caught Ed's lower lip between his own and bit down hard enough to let Ed know that even tho Oswald might still be tied up, he refused to be a passive participant.

Ed growled and pulled back just enough to drag free his lip from Oswald's sharp little teeth.

"You let him touch you," he rumbled against Oswald's mouth. "With his clumsy football fingers and his gross sweaty palms. But that's just your type, isn't it, Ozzie?"

Oswald blanched. "W-what? I don't have a--"

"An all-American stupid slab of meat," Ed hissed, eyes sharpening again like a predator. "Just like Jim goddamned Gordon."

"J-Jim Gordon?!" spluttered Oswald. "Are you serious?!"

Ed had always been jealous of Gordon, first over Oswald, then over Lee, then over Oswald again. Ed had never understood Oswald's unconventional relationship with the man - hell, Oswald couldn't even understand it half the time himself - and Oswald wasn't sure there was anything he could do short of sawing Jim Gordon in half with a turkey cutter than would ever completely alleviate Ed's insecurity. But over the past year Oswald had certainly tried.

"I helped you plant a bomb in his office three weeks ago! Doesn't attempted homicide still count for anything in this city?"

Ed scoffed and rolled his eyes.

"Oh please, Oswald. Like either one of us is a stranger to trying to kill someone we secretly want."

Oswald swallowed, and then licked his lips at what Ed had just so cavalierly admitted. He wondered how long Ed had secretly wanted him, and what twisted up emotions had held Ed back from those deep desires for so many years.

"I suppose I'd better offer you a Class A felony, then," Oswald quipped, licking his lips again, "or I might as well not even bother. Any boring old attempted murder charge just isn't good enough for your riddled-out ass anymore."

A grin ghosted around the corners of Ed's mouth, his hands stroking through Oswald's now disheveled hair, with a expression that could only be described as besotted. Ed was still straddling Oswald's lap, still so close and accessible, his face flushed, lips so red and wet and swollen he looked positively ruined, and Oswald would've killed to have use of his own hands. He leaned forward slowly, gauging Ed's reaction, before closing the scant inches between them to touch their lips for another kiss. Ed hummed in invitation, and this kiss started slow and almost tender.

Oswald sighed into Ed's sweet mouth, around his searching tongue, warm and thick. Kissing, kissing, Ed's fingers stroking and working through his hair, caressing, before one hand drifted down to where Oswald's half-open dress shirt was hanging off one shoulder. Those long fingers skimmed inside, over the shallow ribbing of the the tank top hugging Oswald's sensitive ribs. Oswald trembled, sucking in a breath because Ed was exploring now, in a way Oswald had only ever dreamed about.

He whimpered a little as Ed moved off his mouth, earning a soft shush from Ed who was already kissing his way back down Oswald's hyper-sensitive neck. Oswald tensed, waiting for another harsh bite, but Ed was gentle now, worshipping across the carnage he had left just moments before. His hand dropped down to Oswald's naked thigh, blunted nails scraping up towards his hip. Oswald's cock was throbbing, painful and raw in a way Oswald had never experienced, and he couldn't stop the begging of his mouth.

"Ed, please," he whined, struggling to gain enough leverage to push up with his hips against the heavy weight of Ed's body, so near but still not near enough. "Please, Eddie, pleasepleaseplease..."

The hem of his dress shirt shifted as Ed's spidery fingers slipped underneath and found the hard heat between Oswald's parted thighs.

"Oh my god," Oswald moaned, a relief so intense washing over him that he nearly cried at the contact of skin and pressure against his desperate cock. "Oh, Ed..."

Ed dragged his hand a few times up and down the length of Oswald's shaft, his face buried now in the curve of Oswald's damp neck as he worked. Oswald just panted and keened, riding the swell of pleasure, his thighs trembling slightly as every twist of Ed's wrist brought him closer towards heaven. His brain was so heady with desire that it wasn't until Ed's free hand pinched Oswald's chin that Oswald even realized the man was speaking again.

"Why, Ozzie?" he asked, his voice rough, a heartbreaking look of confusion, of betrayal in his eyes. "You didn't have to let him kiss you, touch you..."

Oswald sucked down a shaky breath, struggling to focus as Ed tugged on his cock a little harder, because Ed was telling him something, something important. His panic of that evening returned as he realized finally, finally why Ed was so hurt and angry. Ed hadn't left, he'd been there and watching as another man gave Oswald a gift, pulled Oswald close and kissed him and slipped a hand between their bodies. Had Ed even seen Oswald push Nathaniel Brutus away?

"Eddie, he didn't! I stopped him! I would never--" He took another ragged breath, locking eyes with his man - his man - direct and honest. "Ed. Honey, you're the only man I'd ever let touch me like--"

He stopped at the sharp sort of choking noise ripped from Ed, at the cascade of emotions he saw crossing the man's face.

"Ed, honey, just tell me what you need..."

Ed pulled back abruptly, off of Oswald's lap and dropped to his knees on the floor. He shoved Oswald's knees apart and crowded up between them. He raked up Oswald's shirt with his free hand, the other still gripping tightly onto Oswald's leaking dick. And then Ed sank his mouth wide around the flared tip. Oswald nearly screamed at the unexpected heat and pressure working down the length of his engorged cock. He could feel the tears brimming out the corners of his eyes at the sight of that big eager mouth working up and down like Ed was starving for Oswald's body. And maybe he was.

Ed's fingertips tightened into the flesh of Oswald's thighs, holding him down as Ed worked his head up and down, the wet sounds of friction and sucking and Oswald's frantic keening sinful in the silent bedroom. A tight pressure coiled at the base of Oswald's cock, almost an agony, and Oswald could feel his orgasm threatening after what felt like only seconds. His dick was already leaking into Ed's mouth, a mouth that hadn't come up for air a single time as Ed swallowed so far down, again and again, that Oswald was certain he should have been gagging and somehow wasn't.

"Eddie- Ed, I'm gonna--" If his hands had been free, he'd have warned Ed back with a hand in his hair, but all Oswald could do was groan and tremble. "Eddie, stop or I'll--"

But Ed had no intention of stopping, sucking hard around Oswald again, and Oswald choked out a litany of moans as he seized forward toward the body between his knees and climaxed into Ed's mouth. The waves of euphoria riding over him were intense enough to force out a painful sob, but as he tried collapsing onto Ed's shoulder, Ed was already standing up. He heard the sound of Ed spitting even as one of Ed's long hands gripped him hard again by the back of his hair, pulling back and forcing Oswald to look up as a mouth crushed down atop his own.

He could taste himself, slightly bitter and almost antiseptic, a viscous smear across Ed's mouth, but he couldn't move against the combined press of hands and lips holding him in place. Another long hard press of lips and Ed pulled off, a string of Oswald's come stretched obscenely between their lips before Ed knuckled his mouth clean with a swipe of his free hand. His eyes were black and locked onto Oswald's with a fierce possessiveness.

"You're mine now," he growled, his voice sparking fresh shivers up Oswald's spine. Oswald struggled to reply, but his head was still pulled so far back, throat extended, that he swallowed a few times before managing any actual words.

"Of course, Ed," he assured, firmly as he could manage. "I love you."

The hand in his hair released, accompanied by another besotted rumble from Ed.

"I never stopped loving you," Oswald breathed out, closing his eyes and flexing his neck in relief as Ed's arms encircled his waist, offering warmth and comfort. Oswald's hands were freed from the tie a moment later. He rubbed at his wrists, feeling the blood rushing back to his fingers, but leaving him oddly at a loss as to where to touch first. As Ed's embrace around him tightened, the man's harsh breathing muffled against the abused flesh of Oswald's neck, Oswald settled on wrapping his arms around Ed's body in reply.

"I love you, too," Ed whispered, voice ragged. "I'm in love with you. I didn't understand how much until tonight. When I saw those other men..."

He pulled back, eyes wide and struggling with what might have been the beginning of guilt or some lingering insecurity as his attention dipped to the bruises blooming thickly across Oswald's white skin. He dipped his head to catch Oswald's mouth in another kiss, soft and penitent, that Oswald whispered into, "There's only you." He ran his hands up the front of Ed's body, to his face, holding him lightly as their lips slid open together, tongues stroking slowly, exploring.

Oswald shifted further back upon the bed, encouraging Ed along, who eagerly followed. Oswald lowered himself to the soft mattress, sighing at the feel of Ed's long body covering him again, soothing and weighted. Then Ed tensed atop him.

"Get rid of that," he barked, and Oswald turned his head to see what Ed was glaring at. There on the bedside table lay the elaborate brooch from Nathaniel Brutus. Oswald reached out to grab the shiny bobble and tossed it across the room, out of Ed's line of sight.

"I'll donate it to the orphanage fund," he promised, not so much because he cared about the orphans as what APPEARING to care about the orphans did for his reputation. Ed probably wanted to destroy the thing because Ed could be the most dramatic bitch in Gotham when it came to sharing - but Oswald was simply too pragmatic, at least about this. They didn't have their resources marshaled enough to waste that kind of goodwill.

Ed seemed to accept the proposal, if reluctantly, and returned his attention to the man smiling beneath him. Oswald's hands twined into Ed's soft hair and he flipped them over, climbing atop the still fully dressed man. A saucy grin curled his lips as he raked his gaze down Ed's long body, all the way to the bulge in the front of Ed's trousers, dampened now from half an hour of leaking with lust and need.

"Well now," purred Oswald, the heel of one hand pressing down on that rock solid tent, eliciting a desperate hiss from his dear friend, his LOVER, and a slow, predatory chuckle from Oswald. "Let's hash out this issue of ownership once and for all."

*

Oswald handed his coat, cane, and hat off to Olga, who tsked at the sheen of rain he had trailed into the house with him. He ignored her disapproval and limped into the dining room where she had dinner plated and waiting. As he neared the table, he was surprised to see Ed already waiting there, his own plate untouched and pushed to the side as he scribbled feverishly across a map of Gotham.

"Ed! I didn't think you'd be back to the mansion this week. Did something happen?"

Ed snapped his head up at the greeting, a wide grin splitting his face at the sight of his partner. The heavy dining chair scraped across the hard wood floor as Ed stood up from the table and crossed over to Oswald.

"Hello, baby," murmured Ed in greeting, dipping his head to press a quick kiss to Oswald's lips. His hand settled softly on the side of Oswald's face, thumb rubbing appreciatively over the remnants of the glimmering blush Oswald had used across his cheeks that morning. "You look beautiful but exhausted. And no, nothing bad happened. Quite the opposite, in fact."

Ed was wearing his eager face, practically vibrating with the need to tell or show Oswald something.

"You're in a suspiciously good mood," observed Oswald, earning another broad grin.

"I have a surprise for you, baby. An opportunity that fell right into my lap today, that I simply couldn't pass up."

"Ok, I'm sufficiently intrigued," conceded Oswald, turning his head to peck a kiss to the palm of Ed's hand as it pulled away. "What is it?"

"I move without wings, between silken string, I leave as you find my substance behind."

Oswald narrowed his eyes, the answer forming and spreading towards into a greater suspicion in his mind.

"I think I'll keep my answer to myself for awhile," he decided, enjoying the intrigue on Ed's face. "Now, where is this delightful surprise?"

"In the shed," replied Ed crisply, "but no point in supper getting cold first. Sit. Eat."

He patted the back of Oswald's chair and Oswald relented with a fond roll of his eyes. He knew Ed well enough to let the man reveal his big surprise at his own pace.

Casting a look around the elaborately prepared dinner, he realized that Ed had cooked the meal, not Olga, and that Oswald was being properly courted for some reason tonight. Whatever Ed wanted to show him was a part of a broader evening of pampering. Oswald's heart fluttered at the thought, blushing shyly as Ed openly admired him from across the table. Less than a month had passed since their first heady night together, and half of that time Ed had been away from the mansion at night, working on his own projects in the city.

His salacious innuendos, the greedy way he would clutch at Oswald during their handful of stolen moments together, pin him down atop his desk at the Iceberg for a rough and hungry round of kissing, was still enthralling and new. As Ed served him a second helping of pot roast, coyly informing Oswald that he would need his strength tonight, Oswald already had an idea of where this night was headed.

Oswald ate more than usual, both because he'd been genuinely starving and to massage Ed's ego. Ed loved nothing more than to have his efforts validated, and he had never concealed his appreciation for a healthy appetite. His eyes were shining as Oswald finally pushed away his emptied second plate of food, feeling positively gluttonous.

"That was delicious," Oswald announced for the fifth time, relaxing back into the chair. Ed was preening like a peacock under the praise and clapped his hands together excitedly.

"Ready to see what I have for you in the shed?"

Oswald groaned - first at the idea of standing up, and second at the thought of slogging through the rain to the storage shed. But he didn't want to be ungrateful, or spoil the evening, so he took a sip of water to settle his stomach and stood up, motioning for Ed to lead the way.

He was both entirely un-surprised and yet somehow still impressed at the sight of the person trussed up before him. He had heard that Nathaniel Brutus was back in Gotham on business, but that was information he had kept to himself. Oswald had told Ed about the events of the party on that first night, how unprepared he'd been for the man trying to grope him. Ed had listened and sworn occasionally under his breath, but a few soft kisses and apologies from the both of them and Ed had never mentioned that night again. Oswald should have known that with a man as possessive and stubborn as Ed, no offense of that nature was ever truly forgotten.

Oswald stepped closer, a reflection of light catching his attention, chuckling morbidly as he recognized the pretty spider brooch embedded in Brutus's right eye. Oswald had given the brooch to Olga to donate, but apparently Ed had interceded with plans of his own. Blood covered the right half of their prisoner's face, and his remaining eye was full of terror at their arrival. Oswald probably should have felt at least a kindred sort of pity, having lost one of his own eyes once, but this man meant nothing to him. Ed's hands curled around Oswald's shoulders in glee.

"Do you like him?" he whispered into Oswald's ear, hot and breathy with excitement.

"Oh, darling," purred Oswald, "how you spoil me, Eddie." He patted one of Ed's hands with his own before stepping over to a selection of crude gardening tools Ed had assembled on a tray for his perusal. As Oswald ran his fingertips across a pair of pruning sheers he could hear the labored hitch in Ed's breathing, could see the lust glossing over Ed's eyes in anticipation. And Oswald hadn't even started yet.

Oh yes, Oswald knew exactly where this evening was headed.